Gangster Squad was a film that I had been eagerly anticipating to see on its general release. The director is Ruben Fleischer, the man responsible for Zombieland (2009) which taught me to never judge a film by its title and one of my personal favourites from the last decade. It also features a top ensemble cast, Sean Penn arguably one of the greatest actors still active plays the villain; the very talented Josh Brolin plays the no nonsense honest cop hero and young heartthrob Ryan Gosling also co-stars as a cop. As you can probably tell I had reasonably high expectations for this film, which much to my disappointment were not met at all.
I imagine you’re asking how can a film with this much talent behind it turn out so poor and to be honest I’m still asking myself that same question. The story is derivative, the characters are bland, and the film is totally forgettable. The film follows the titular ‘Gangster Squad’ a police unit as they battle against gangster Mickey Cohen, played by Penn, to once again take control of the crime ridden streets of LA, however a better summary would be that this film is a series of crime film clichés from start to finish.
Gangster Squad offers nothing new at all to the gangster genre; in fact practically everything you see in this film has been done before and a lot better. If I had to give it some praise though I will say that the cinematography was very good, especially in the sequence involving a prison escape, there were a lot of pyrotechnics and special effects involved and I think they were caught on camera very well. I also think credit is deserved to the filmmakers for capturing the look and tone of 1940s LA superbly well too.
Now the acting on display here is very mixed. Some of the cast are good, some are just above average and Ryan Gosling is awful. I realise that a lot of females reading this will probably hate me for what I just wrote, but I’m sorry ladies it’s true, every good actor has one bad performance in their career and this is Goslings. His character is so undeveloped that I believe the only reason he agreed to play him was just to try out that ridiculous accent he gave him. The only actor I really enjoyed watching onscreen was Robert Patrick as an aging gunslinger, who throughout his career has always been incredibly fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong I like every actor in this film, even Ryan Gosling who in the past has proven to be a tremendous talent (I’d like to say that this is my true opinion and not just a way to get girls to like me again).
Maybe my expectations were too high and maybe this is just an average popcorn flick that requires no thought, just pure entertainment for a blockbuster seeking audience. I just feel that this film is a noisy waste of time and is the epitome of style over substance.